All Learning Is Emotional: Keeping Your Student Motivated During Homeschooling

| by Thuy Truong, M.A. Ed., TPT Teaching and Coaching, 11/3/2020|

I have to admit, I do enjoy the jolt of satisfaction when I can get through to a student. The catch is every student is different, so what works with one student may not work with the next student. There is no magic formula; the formula is there is none. I remember back in the day when I taught high school English I very often had only 5 minutes to inspire a student to work harder and refrain from socializing with their neighbors instead of working on the assignment. It was often an overly ambitious five-minute crusade in the hallway since I didn’t want to put the rest of the class on hold just for one student. On most days, it worked. That was because I always remembered the brain-based learning research that all learning is emotional (Educational Leadership). That simply means before I can get the student on board to do anything, I have to be able to convince the student emotionally. This professional belief still applies to this day. I believe this is the secret ingredient in fostering and maintaining a student’s motivation during the cognitive process of learning, but especially during virtual instruction.

The Student's Dilemma

Last year, I had a lovely and bright high school student whom I was coaching for time management and organization. She did not believe in to-do lists or getting things down in writing with pen and paper. Hence, I initially introduced her to tasks management and productivity apps, but they only worked for a short while and eventually did not stick. One day she was telling me about her mother, so I gave her a small assignment to ask her mother what was the organizational tool her mother used to get things done. She said her mother doesn’t have a system. “She just writes things down and checks them off.” I immediately seized the teachable moment to emphasize to the student, wait a minute, your mom does have a system. Her system may be simple, but it is a system, nevertheless. I went on to explain to the student that everyone has a system; she just has to find the one that works for her. Something clicked at that moment. The student’s attitude changed right away. The student was now emotionally convinced that she did need a better system, and there was value in implementing one. Afterwards, the student was able to become more comfortable in breaking down her larger assignments into digestible pieces and plugging in deadlines within her Google calendar with a new conviction that she was doing something that she believed in rather than just going through the motions. Perhaps, organically finding her own organizational system and emotionally perceiving that time management is real, had helped this student crack the code to the disciplined art of being a well-trained time manager.

My Tailored Solution

For this particular student, the emotional breakthrough came in the form of spiritual refreshment, specifically the student found novelty in honing the skills that her mother was also executing every day. Listening to the student, I could tell the student had a deep reverence for her mother and had the wish to emulate her mother’s independence and autonomy. In that instance, I thought the student’s mother would serve as a great role model to transform the student’s perspective into a healthier one towards time management and organization. Therefore, I recognized that this was a precious source of motivation for the student from the inside out. Intrinsic motivation lasts much longer than extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is a deep well of spring water, once discovered, the student can draw emotional strength from it again and again for renewal and nourishment. In addition, I also let the student hear from her high school peers the organizational strategies they were using via short YouTube clips. Peer perspective often creates relevance and practicality to what the student is learning. The trick is finding the key to unlock the student’s motivation thereby potential.

At-Home Motivational Strategies for Parents

Even working professionals have the need to create customized, daily rituals to motivate themselves to produce great work by using powerful office quotes, fail-proof organizational tools, and clever energy management tactics. Students, in contrast, need consistent emotional guidance and support from loved ones to keep them motivated academically. Therefore, I would like to offer a few suggestions to keep your student motivated during homeschooling:

-Listen, leverage and tap into what inspires your student. Then, use this as a catalyst to springboard towards academic performance. Most students don’t know how to verbalize what motivates them, but you’ll know when you listen deeply.

-Whenever possible, convince the student emotionally before you ask them to complete a task. Give them a deeper reason to do something. Student buy-in should start from within.

-Challenge them to go beyond their comfort zone, but mix it with something that they are already familiar with, so the challenge doesn’t seem insurmountable and the student feels nurtured and supported in the process.

As adults, we all know that emotions are powerful determinants in our daily decision-making and they are what makes us human. Students’ emotions determine the motivational and mental energy they put into their intellectual pursuits. Emotions affect how students learn and how much they remember. High-performing students possess an extraordinary amount of internal motivation from long-standing homelife routines and role models in their lives. Ultimately, emotional motivation gives birth to intellectual motivation. Let’s tap into our students’ emotional world, for that is sometimes where the deepest source of motivation lies.

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